As team coaches we enable people to act in awareness. To do this we must build inclusive cultures, say Carroll Macey and Sohini Petrie
We, Georgina Woudstra and Allard de Jong, have been writing this column since 2017. In our desire to hear more voices from the field of team coaching, we have shifted our roles from authors to curators of this column. In this issue, Carroll Macey and Sohini Petrie examine the role of team coaches in creating inclusive team cultures.
As coaches we work in the field of meaningful change at the individual, team and organisational level. To be effective in our roles we must be awake to what’s happening in the system and the broader context in which we all operate, and equipped to respond appropriately.
Answering the question, ‘How does coaching need to disrupt itself to meet the challenges of the next 30 years?’, Peter Hawkins and Eve Turner (2019) acknowledge that “we see too little evidence that coaching is being bold enough to challenge itself to ask the questions about how the mid-21st century will require coaching to be radically different from the current approaches that grew out of the late 20th century”.
We believe that one of the radical differences in coaching that should be addressed by team coaches is how we shape and influence inclusive team cultures. Rising to this challenge requires confronting how the coaching industry and profession has been set up to benefit white privileged Westerners – both clients and coaches – and by default has excluded those traditionally and systemically marginalised. While the coaching industry is shifting to be more accessible and inclusive, we enquire here into what those shifts might look like for team coaches.
It is the equivalence of complicity to remain neutral on ethical issues of equity and equality. It could be seen as colluding with the status quo.
Everything in life is dependent on human intervention. Imagine a world in which every person was supported in bringing their best self to ideas, thinking, talking. Holding that as an intention in team coaching means that we take a stance of intentionality to challenge the concept of what’s accepted as normal in the workplaces that we visit, the teams and leaders we work with.
Our role as team coaches is to enable people to act in awareness through informed choice. In building inclusive team cultures, we’re personally accountable for our own inner work of raising our awareness of what our social responsibility is in social change and social justice. Our weaponry consists of the use of questions, listening, curiosity, challenge, and the ability to see patterns arising.
We can bring the gift of equanimity into the coaching space – to see polarities and to help a team explore both sides to gain greater awareness and understanding, ultimately to decide on their course of action. When you walk into a room where’s your attention drawn to naturally? Ask yourself what are the similarities that exist in this team? How do team members explore their differences?
We are often asked what the right approach to take is or we hear that people are worried they’ll say the wrong thing. But saying nothing is worse than saying the wrong thing because in staying neutral, you and the team won’t learn and are denied the opportunity to make different choices in behaviour.
There’s a coach awakening happening around our own awareness on these issues. Papers like those from Charmaine Roche and Jonathan Passmore on Racial Justice, Equity and Belonging in Coaching, Amber Mayes and Sukari Pinnock-Fitts on Coaching in the Fifth Domain, and Lou Chui on Conceptualising Allyship for Coaching to Promote Social Change, have illuminated the need for coaches to examine their own social identity awareness. They have surfaced questions such as: what does an inclusive coaching practice look like? Do we, as coaches, have the skills and abilities to embrace and hold the complexities – warts and all – of living and working in a world where oppressive systems influence our (and our clients’) behaviour, relationships, and thinking?
Coaches are called to examine their own power in the coaching space. As Dacher Keltner (2016) says, power has the ability to make a difference in the world, positive or negative, even when used indiscriminately or unconsciously.
One guide for us in confronting our power in the team coaching space can be found in social work, where anti-oppressive practice calls for development of “critical consciousness” – “the process of continuously reflecting upon and examining how our own biases, assumptions and cultural worldview affect the way we perceive difference and power dynamics” (Sakamoto & Pitner, 2005). Leaning into critical consciousness we might, as coaches, be provoked to question how we can be complicit in recreating and reinforcing structures of oppression in the team coaching space.
We personally have been going through this journey of enquiry, reflection and awakening.
Listening deeply to what the world as a system is calling for, challenges us to consider how we can meet those tectonic shifts as team coaches and leadership coaches. For us, that means rumbling with the status quo. Now, we know that the pull of the status quo is strong. So, we need the velocity of liberation. Also known as escape velocity, it is the “minimum speed needed for a free, non-propelled object to escape from the gravitational influence of a primary body, thus reaching an infinite distance from it” (Wikipedia).
Our coaching practices need a jetpack of new competencies, skills and qualities that can fortify us in overcoming the gravity of these embedded and powerful systems of oppression and sustain us as we build our inclusive coaching practice.
Figure 1 shows what we think we need in our jetpack. Take a moment to reflect on the Five Elements of an Inclusive Team Coaching Practice and how you respond to each – and score yourself out of 10:
- What new thoughts are forming for you now?
- Which element would you focus on first?
- What might you do to move one up on the ten-point scale in that element?
- What else might you do to embrace diversity and inclusion in the team coaching space?
Figure 1: Five elements of an inclusive team coaching practice
- If you would like to learn and grow as a team coach, you are welcome join our vibrant community of team coaches from around the globe. Click here to join:
- L W Chiu, ‘Conceptualising Allyship for Coaching to Promote Social Change’, in International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, (S16), 40-54, 2022
- P Hawkins and E Turner, Systemic Coaching: Delivering value beyond the individual, Routledge, 2019
- D Keltner, The Power Paradox: How we gain and lose influence, Penguin, 2016
- A Mayes and S Pinnock-Fitts, ‘Coaching in the Fifth Domain’ in Choice, 2017 [online] Available at:
- C Roche and J Passmore, Racial Justice, Equity and Belonging in Coaching, Henley Business School, 2021
- I Sakamoto and R O Pitner, ‘Use of Critical Consciousness in Anti-Oppressive Social Work Practice: Disentangling Power Dynamics at Personal and Structural Levels’, in British Journal of Social Work, 35(4), 435-452, 2005
- Carroll Macey is founder of CM2 Consulting UK, an executive coach, team coach and mindfulness teacher. She has been coaching for more than 20 years and is a faculty member for Team Coaching Studio (TCS), where she is head of ED&I and co- founder of the TCS Team Coaching Community of Practice. Her passion is in creating spaces for meaningful dialogue where thinking, talking and action are at their best.
- Sohini Petrie is founder of Harikoa, and a leadership and team coach who supports purpose-driven leaders and teams. Her mission is to bring joy, aliveness and a sense of belonging to the gritty work of life and leadership in complex and changing business and social contexts. She is a member of the core ED&I team at Team Coaching Studio.